Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Elements of sabotage?

ELEMENTS of sabotage, petty jealousy and sheer idiotic lunacy have made the International Athletics Association Federation's High Performance Training Centre (HPTC) Asia in Bukit Jalil a subject of debate between two warring factions in the domestic track and field scene.

It calls for a strong sense of direction from the top leadership of the Malaysian Amateur Athletics Union (MAAU) but I don't think it will happen. While one party accuses the other that no local athletes were given the right to train at the centre, the other party has gathered enough evidence of sabotage designed to undermine the Centre. Read here

HPTC Asia was originally based in Bangkok. The move to shift the HPTC from Bangkok to Bukit Jalil began as early as 2002, when Datuk Danyal Balagopal Abdullah inspected the site. The mission was finally completed when track and field's international governing body IAAF declared KL as the winner in April 2005.

In October 2004, I wrote this piece for Mailsport.

IF Lady Luck smiles at us, Malaysia may well become the hub for future Olympians from track and field in Asia.

Kuala Lumpur, along with Pune, India, are the candidates to replace Thailand as International Association of Athletics Federation's (IAAF) High Performance Training Centre (HPTC) in Asia and the seventh overall throughout the world.

And if the IAAF development commission favour Bukit Jalil ahead of Pune when they convene to decide the venue in December, the centre could start operating next January. The first HPTC was opened by the IAAF in 1997. Since then the body have expanded the programme by establishing centres in Africa, South America, Oceania and the Caribbean.

The centres are located in Eldoret (Kenya), which specialises in jumping, Dakar (Senegal, sprints, horizontal and jumps), Kingston (Jamaica, sprint and hurdles), Mauritius (all events), Auckland (Oceania, all events) and Manaus (Brazil, all events).

IAAF's recognition of the centre in Thammasat University near Bangkok was cancelled early last year after AAAT, Thailand's athletics governing body, failed to adhere to certain conditions imposed by the international body.

In April 8, 2005, this article appeared in Mailsport.

"THE eagle has landed."

Using military jargon to describe International Association Athletics Federation (IAAF) decision to pick Kuala Lumpur as the Asian branch of the High Performance Training Centre (HPTC), Malaysian Amateur Athletics Union (MAAU) deputy president Datuk Danyal Balagopal Abdullah broke the good news after IAAF development committee gave KL the nod ahead of Pune, India.

The unanimous decision by IAAF was made in their meeting in Doha, Qatar.

The benefits are aplenty, but ultimately, according to Danyal when contacted in Doha, it will raise the standard of Malaysian athletics, a sport which had been picked by the Government as one of eight core sports to be developed.

"Top Malaysian athletes will enjoy first-class coaching from IAAF-certified coaches. We intend to make KL HPTC a centre which specialises in high-intensity training in hurdles, horizontal and vertical jumps and middle-distance," said Danyal.

Credit is due to Danyal, MAAU president, Datuk Syed Mohamad Aidid Syed Murtaza and National Sports Council (NSC) director-general, Datuk Wira Mazlan Ahmad for convincing IAAF of KL's credentials.

Mazlan, in his weekly column in Metro Ahad last Sunday, revealed he had persuaded Syed Aidid, who had tendered his resignation as the MAAU president last month, to go to Doha to illustrate Malaysia's seriousness in getting the rights.

Syed Aidid's presence took India by surprise. It was earlier thought Asian AAA president, Suresh Kalmadi, would have thrown his weight around to ensure Pune's appointment but India were not represented at all in Doha.

Instead, Syed Aidid, Danyal and Mazlan spent the last 48 hours speaking to almost the entire committee to lobby for KL, firmly supported by Malik El-Hebel, who inspected the facilities at Bukit Jalil last year.

Danyal, meanwhile, initiated the whole idea of bringing the HPTC to Kuala Lumpur when he visited the HPTC in Bangkok in October 2002. And yesterday, the Inspector-General of the Navy crossed the finish line, so to speak, with the gold medal.

The HPTC in Bangkok which ceased operations last year specialised in providing high-intensity training for sprinters.

There are only six HPTCs in the world - one each in Brazil, Kenya, Jamaica, Mauritius and Senegal.

The Kenya HPTC in Eldoret emphasise on middle and long-distance training while Manaus in Brazil offers expertise in sprints, jumps, javelin and hammer.

So how does one gain entry to the HPTC? There are two ways - on merit or otherwise. The first option, on merit, is performance-based.

Athletes who qualify for training at HPTC are scholarship holders of the Olympic Solidarity Programme.

The second option is for the athlete to pay his way, either on private funding or through governmental or national assistance.

"As hosts, Malaysia will be granted some leeway to accommodate the entry of a certain number of athletes."


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